The memories that help us…REALLY???

sharing memories

by Kenneth Justice

~Last night at the café one of my favorite coffee friends (a trial lawyer) came and sat at my table. Unfortunately he didn’t have good news, “Kenneth I can only sit for a few minutes because I have to pick up my brother at the airport….he’s flying in to see my father

I had known that the lawyer’s father had a stroke a couple months ago and apparently his father is not going to recover; at 89 years old the father has lived a full life and now the three brothers were all going to be at the bedside last night for what was likely going to be the last time they would see their father alive.

The lawyer has been telling me stories about his father over the course of the past month….it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that he told me about the stroke and the impending death…. and it was then that I realized why he had been sharing with me so many memories of his childhood; his dad was dying and by talking with me he was remembering all the good times he had with his father and all the things he cherished about the man.

When I got the call in 2008 that my own father was near the end….it was on the plane ride to Florida to see him that I began writing down a biography of his life; by writing about my father and remembering all the good (as well as the bad) it helped me to cope with his impending death and all the varied emotions pulsating through my veins.

I don’t know if my father completely understood that he was about to die, but in the final two hours that he was conscious he began talking to me about his entire life; he shared with me some of the mistakes he made as a youth, he told me how proud he was of the life I was living, and he talked at great length about a number of things he had never revealed to me before. The cancer had spread throughout his entire body and my father was in a lot of pain; and in those final few breaths as he grappled against the sickness that was attacking him…..he shared his memories.

There is something about remembering the past that can heal broken hearts and be a refreshing spring of water to the thirsty.

In ancient days, remembering the past was such a vital component of society that people would erect stones and monuments in order to remind all the people of the events that had taken place among their ancestors. Pharaohs’ built pyramids, the Greeks built statues, every culture throughout history has done their best to pass down the stories of long ago to future generations.

I occasionally meet new people at the various café’s I hang out at and one of the most common threads of discussion are people telling me about their past;

—-) People who have been hurt or abused talk about those stories from their past

—-) People who are in love talk about how they met their lover

—-) People who are lonely talk about times when they were happy

There is something about remembering the past that can heal broken hearts and be a refreshing spring of water to the thirsty

You see, whether people have bad memories or good memories; most people want to remember them. Perhaps it has something to do with how our past has contributed to the person we are today. Perhaps people want to remember the past in order to understand why they are struggling or succeeding in their current life.

Whatever reason it is; people love to remember. They love to share stories of good times, of bad times, and even times when they were embarrassed or they screwed up. People connect with each other by sharing the stories of their past. Even in my little articles that I write each morning; I am recounting the experiences of yesterday; essentially, I am sharing my memories of my past.

I guess because Christmas is just around-the-corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about the past. For me, its a big deal to understand that it is the story about that night in Bethlehem so long ago, which has been passed from one generation to the next until eventually, it was told to me.

—) Some people have taken the story of the Christ child and used it as a way to stir up religious wars and persecute the innocent

—) But others have taken the story of the Nativity and used it as the fuel to serve others, to reach out to the poor, the defenseless, and the brokenhearted.

For many people like myself, the story of the Christ child is a major reminder to us that we are called to love others and to reach out to those that society ignores and neglects. Religion for me is not a system of dull rules and regulations…..holidays like Christmas are instead, a time of positive memories that propel me towards positive actions.

Of course, as a Christian it is so important for me to remember the bad things that Christians in the past are guilty of; the cruel wars, the racism, misogyny, the use of the bible to justify slavery….and all the other evil blots on the Christian church. Its okay for me to remember those things; because I don’t want to be guilty of repeating those bad behaviors.

So as I listened to the lawyer tell me another story about his father…..I remembered my own experience sitting with my dad as he died…and how grateful I am for all my memories.

For now, its time for my morning coffee,





Categories: Culture & Society

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71 replies

  1. This touched my heart this morning. I can relate to the idea of memories, a few years ago I wrote a piece about pictures that was similar to your tone and ideas here. Memories are what make us who we are and if they are bad, we have to strive to make better ones in the future. Life is about the past and the future, we must always look forward even when looking back.

    • “Life is about the past and the future, we must always look forward even when looking back.”

      right. I have known a lot of people who don’t want to remember the past because of bad things that happened to them…..but it wasn’t until they faced those memories that they were truly able to overcome them and move forward…….I know a few people who still refuse to face those memories and sadly they are kinda stuck in a rut

    • I can certainly relate to that too. It is very hard dealing with and facing past hurtful memories, but in order to live the life that you deserve, you must. Life isn’t said to be easy, it’s just meant to be worth it. We have to make our own life worth living, through whatever means we feel necessary and sometimes that means doing the hard stuff in order to move forward.

    • “Life isn’t said to be easy, it’s just meant to be worth it”

      in some ways I feel guilty because many would say that my life ‘has been easy’ and yet I still find myself complaining about certain elements of it and wish it were easier still! annoying I’m sure for some of my friends….so I try to keep my whining at a minimum.

    • I can understand and in all honestly no one has a right to judge another and their life. I know that there are those who would or might say the same about mine, but they have no idea. I understand not wanting to whine. I always feel like there are others who have it so much worse and I should be thankful that I can pursue what I love, get up every day in my home and live my life how I choose.

    • Right ; that is how I feel….that others have it worse than me song need to keep a lid on the whining

  2. Thanks for the reminder that we are to be an example of Christ’s light. It is to easy to fall into the trap of feeling we need to be God’s judge and jury here on earth. Arrogance and ignorance are a horrible combination found way to often within today’s church culture.
    This post hits close to home for another reason as well. My father died a week ago yesterday so this post resounds deeply to me. My dad was a man without guile and he never met a stranger, I think he lived out his Faith well. Peace.

    • Many Christians these days seem to think they are supposed to be the ‘moral police’ instead of realizing that they are called to reach out and love others and serve others…sadly this is a theme that is often ignored throughout Western Christianity.

      my condolences to you and your family…..even when people live long lives death is always filled with a certain element of heartache…..

  3. This post is one of the most profound ones you’ve written, Kenneth. Thank you. I wish I’d had the luxury to know my dad was dying. My last memory is speaking to him on the phone to say happy birthday and cutting it short because I didn’t feel like talking on the phone and my daughter was crying in my ear. I’m glad your lawyer friend and you were able to say goodbye.
    When I miss my dad the most isn’t when I’m directly thinking of him. It’s things coming up that I associate with him and trigger memories. In fact, sewing t-shirt quilts for my family has given me more closure than I thought possible. Memories, good or bad, are so valuable – I completely agree. And this ties in to the previous post you made about the man who had been in around 20 foster homes. What did he miss the most? Memories.

    • Well, at least you got to wish him a happy birthday……I’m sure your dad (like all of us) know what its like to be a mom with a little one crying; impossible to talk on the phone.

      For a long time I thought about my dad every day….its been 5 years and I still think about him at least a few times a week…its hard not to; for so many of us our parents played an integral role in who we are today……..

  4. Hey, Kenneth. Thanks for all the ‘likes’ on my blog posts. Browsing through your site, I recognize that you are asking a lot of important questions, very openly. I’d love to spend time with you, a cup and your many (many!) followers. You seem to be spending it well. Cheers!

  5. Very touching story, I was not there when my father took his last breath, I live in Canada and he in France, but I do cherish the memories of him. I was there for my Mom however, and I will never forget all she did for me, she gave me everything. God bless them.

    • Its weird when a parent dies…..I had never experienced someone as close to me as my dad dying and for those few years following the death the world felt a little bit more lonely to me….I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have both parents gone…..but I eventually moved on after the death of my father so I guess that is what it is about; accepting death and moving on with our life…but never forgetting the memories 🙂

  6. Somehow the unpleasant past is present but with the lowest intensity, be it about persecution or lack of freedom. On the opposit corner, we feel so deeply the good memories and we live them over and over again…

    • Dana,

      so beautifully said…….my good memories I remember over and over and over…I love to think about the good times, the travels and journeys I’ve been on, the places I’ve been…..

  7. Correction: opposite corner

  8. The convention of a fixed identity requires constant revision, so we reminisce.

  9. This really hit home with me, as my stepfather (of 23 yrs) passed away in March. He was only 59. He was put in ICU, diagnosed with Leukemia and passed away…all within 2 weeks. He had no idea (I don’t think) that his death was near. It’s so hard not thinking of him in ICU. Those memories hauntm me. The only thing that helps is remembering the many wonderful memories we shared. Thank you for posting this today.

  10. I think memories share two purposes. Some allow us to relive a moment in the past and, when that moment involves someone who has passed, it allows their memory to live on. Others are ones we are trying to escape and/or understand. I think the idea that your pain and/or embarrassment is exclusive to you can increase the feeling. Sharing the story and seeing that other people have been in similar situations allows us to let that go. Even if it doesn’t relieve everything, it’s a relief to know that we are not alone in our experience.

    • Exactly….I think that is what propels a lot of strangers toward connecting with each other; being able to talk with others and know that we are not alone in our experiences is a massive relief

  11. Got to keep the loonies on the path.

  12. To remember is one thing as long as we can learn from it. but to often we use it to hide behind it.
    Memories are not shields they are just echoes of what once was. and we need to move forward. Not keep digging up the past to justify your present mistakes.

  13. Love this post of yours, and how true that we love to remember the past. The older I get, the closer I come to realizing how similar I am like my mother. I like my old music better, like talking about the old times…

    • Great comments…..although I don’t think I will ever “love” the music of my father…not cause I’m prejudiced or anything but he was so much older when i was born and I never really connected with the music of his era

    • I still love the music my mom listened to, but it took a while before I came around. Now I have it full circle when my daughter gets in the car and IMMEDIATELY changes the radio station to her stuff. Also, just like I did, she turns it up so loud! Reminds me of myself, for sure!

    • Lol….I definitely listen to a lot more pop music these days thanks to my daughters

  14. Out of the park, Kenneth!

    And I find myself forming a new addiction. ; – )

  15. “Many Christians these days seem to think they are supposed to be the ‘moral police’”

    Amen brother. And especially for you and your own spiritual journeying, another fellow traveller’s thoughts on the same theme. You both speak the same language with a different harmony. The sound is beautiful:

  16. History is a treasure. Where is no past, is no future. I like to look back, sometimes frowning, sometimes laughing with my memories that reminds me recipe of my life.
    I’m sorry for all that lost their parents.

  17. Kenneth, thank you for stopping by to read and like my post. May the grace of the Lord Jesus continue to pour from you as love others the way He does. Filing those needs he makes known to you.

  18. Looking to the past helps us understand the present and make sense of how we got to be where we are. History and memories are grounding for most of us. There are also many lessons to be learned! However, I like to remind myself that there is only the present moment……the one that we live in right now. We can’t change the past, but we can cherish the present moment and the time we have with loved ones while they are here.

  19. All religions and most philosophies have been responsible for, or involved in, evil acts. Had that pretext been removed, no doubt another would have been found. Human nature is frequently vile, and only very occasionally sublime.
    The past is, as you say, important to us, good or bad. In fact, many people seem to cause themselves harm when they block out an unpleasant past instead of confronting it and rising above it.

  20. If it hadn’t been for my past, I wouldn’t have the heart that beats inside of me today. It’s an awesome feeling when God provides an ear at a moments notice. If we listen close enough, He walks us through all the painful ones. He shows us the rainbow after every storm.
    I find myself aware and thankful for memories. Even those rotten ones full of pain. It feels so good to share my story with those who have asked. If the story of my pain helps them, if that is God’s plan, I’m thankful. It’s tough getting to that road and I’ve failed, a lot. Then a friend swoops in and reminds me to reflect.

    The good memories…well they’re just fantastical, right. Nothing better than a cup a joe and some reminiscing.

  21. People who have been hurt or abused talk about those stories from their past… there is something about remembering the past that can heal broken hearts and be a refreshing spring of water to the thirsty

    Well, I mentioned trauma issues before… it has to be a balance. My counselor told me that I needed to avoid reliving the past. And I had to agree. Flashbacks for me trigger memories so strong that I can really be trapped in that past moment– and I’ve done some things in the present that risked real trouble for me. In these instances, wounds reopen, and thirst becomes more dire. I get what you’re saying, Kenneth, I really do… but for some of us, it is too easy to revisit our prisons, and we have to put stronger emphasis on the present, to realize that today, we are free. Many, many, many times I’ve had to remind myself that the nightmare was over.

    • “My counselor told me that I needed to avoid reliving the past. ”

      excellent point. There is a distinction that definitely needs to be made; we can share the stories of our past to help us work through them…but we shouldn’t obsess over the past. I know of a few people who are borderline OCD and they have a difficult time getting past the things from their youth

  22. Raising my cup to you!

  23. That is why I love history so much. If we are unaware of our past, we have not incentive to grow and change in the future.

  24. I like your way of writing. I am new to blogging, this looks inspiring 🙂

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